A video from Microsoft Research and the University of Washington has been causing a stir online. The seven-minute clip, which was presented at Siggraph 2008 this week in Los Angeles, gives a small peek at some photo-viewing technology that's effectively the next generation of Photosynth, one of Microsoft Live Labs' most eye-popping technology demos.
Photosynth's technology puts hundreds of photos on a 3D map that users can browse and navigate in a similar fashion to real life. This new technology lets the viewer see several sides of a captured object using the varying angles from multiple photos. It also figures out where most of the shots have been taken to automatically create "orbits" that let users sweep around to view alternate angles--simulating distance and perspective.
One of the most amazing aspects is how selective the system is to build a better user experience. For instance, if shots come from different angles or heights, the photos will be centered or properly moved around the 3D space to make it smooth. It will also pick out only photos from a specific time of day, and make automatic color corrections to even everything out. The demo of this around the 4:17 mark is really, really cool.
While Photosynth continues to be a technology demo, here's hoping we get fun stuff like this to play with as part of popular photo-sharing sites. Users are already, but the browsing experience once they're on a 2D map is a little blah. Going forward it should be all about making that viewing experience both engaging and as realistic as possible.